Trek from Thimphu to Punakha
Strenuous 1st day & moderate 2nd day
This trek is from Thimphu (The current capital of Bhutan) to Punakha (The ancient capital of Bhutan). It is a short four-day trek crossing the Sinchula Pass that separates the two important valleys of Western Bhutan. There is a fair amount of interaction with the villages and the people at the beginning and at the end of the trek. In the olden times, this route was used by the lords, the monk body to move back and forth from Punakha to Thimphu and by the local villagers of Kabjisa. The people of Kabjisa keep two houses, one in Thimphu for the summers and the other in Punakha for the winters. Now days, the villagers seldom use this route but choose to travel by bus.
DAY 1: PANGRI ZAMPA – DUPSHI PANG
Altitude at Start Point: 7440 Ft
Altitude at Destination: 10660 Ft
Distance: 12 Kms
Time taken: 8-9 Hrs (Approximate)
Our first day begins with a car ride till Pangrizampa for about 15 minutes. From here we follow the dirt trail leading to Menchu Karpo (The medicinal soaking stream). Many locals from Thimphu under go traditional hot stone bath next to this stream during the weekends to heal from various diseases. Today we hike through the beautifully set village of Kabjisa. Besides the locals who have lived there for ages, there are also Tibetan refugees who have settled here. We will get an opportunity to visit a Tibetan community school in this village. After 2-3 hours of gradual hike, we reach Debja Gosa set at 9100 Ft from where we start our climb to the camp. The trails from here are deep and narrow with lots of switchbacks cut through the thick vegetation of mixed conifer, bamboo, rhododendron and Daphne trees. After our lunch at Bangla Kayba, a nice clearing meadow surrounded by Hemlock and Juniper trees, we climb to the Sinchula pass 11200ft. The climb is steep at the first part and then is gradual till w get to the top. The pass is marked with a medium size Chorten (Stupa) and lot of prayer flags. In clear weather, there is a magnificent view of the lower villages of Talo, Toebisa and Limukha. It is also possible to view the high snow peaks towards Lunana in the north. We then descend down hill through the mixed coniferous forest vegetation. Today is the best day of the hike with spectacular views of the lower valleys till we reach the camp.
DAY 2: DUPSHIPANG – CHORTEN NYEBU to PUNAKHA
Altitude at Destination: 5300 Ft
Altitude Loss: 2070 Ft
Distance: 11 Kms
Time taken: 7-8 Hrs (Approximate)
The second day of our trek is also down hill through worn trails that are deep that it is almost like going through tunnels at some points. However, this is a perfect day to encounter many lower altitude Rhododendrons and young oaks. One can encounter plenty of birds too. Some of the common birds seen around here are: Grey Backed Shrike, Yellow Billed Blue Magpie, Eurasian Jay, Black Drongo, Common Myna and Green backed Tit and many more. We also walk through a series of cattle grazing grounds but will encounter cattle herders only in summer when they are moving higher after the plantations. Cross a bridge over the Kabji Chhu (River) and we walk parallel through the villages of Dophukha. People in this village are wealthy and have very fertile farmlands. Their main source of income is from selling the red rice during the weekend markets in Punakha. Another 45 minutes hike from here will take us to our campgrounds near Chorten Nyebu (Meaning the Old Chorten – Stupa).
Explore the Chorten Nyebu temple. This temple as the name implies is the oldest temple in the region. It is about 350 years old. The main statue in the temple is the future Buddha. The sacredness is considered similar to that of the Jow statue in the Lhasa Jokhang in Tibet. On the 10th Day of the eight month of the Bhutanese calendar, the locals and many more from the lower valleys gather here to undergo a Tsechu – prayer ceremony in the honor of the Buddha and the Guru Rimpochey. After visiting the temple. We hike down hill through the Kabjisa Primary School that is founded about 10 years ago built in the middle of the village houses. Hike down hill for another hour and we will reach the motor road point where our driver will greet us. Drive to Punakha that will take us about 45 minutes. Night – Hotel AccommodationNOTE: This itinerary is a sample itinerary intended to give you a general idea of trip to Bhutan. We can tailor an itinerary to suit your requirements and interests.
Druk Path Trek
2 nights and 3 days (Strenuous trek)
Season: March-June, September-November
Maximum Altitude: 4110mtrs
Day 1: Sangaygang (2818m) – Tsokam (4110m) 7 – 8 hrs
The trail head starts from Sangaygang, which has the radio broadcasting tower for the only radio station in the country (which from 1999 has started broadcasting TV programs also). To get there, you have to pass by the Takin Enclosure and if you have not been there before, you could visit the national animal and drive up to the Sangaygang from where you have superb view of Thimphu in all direction.
Sangaygang is one of the picnic spots of the Thimphu inhabitants, where they come to put up prayer flags and have picnic lunches. As such you will find hundreds of prayer flags on poles and strung across the trees. This marks your 200m steep ascent up to Chhokhortse Goempa (3010m / 9870ft) in a clearing. After this the trail to Phajoding becomes less steep till you reach a junction with path to left taking you back to Thimphu – Motithang and the right one taking you to Bhutanese Chorten at 3440 m. After this you walk for about 45 minutes to reach the Phajoding, where you could visit the Phojoding Goemba, one of the numerous temples and meditations centres scattered across the hill. A Tibetan yogi called Togden Pajo in the 13th century founded this goemba. Other buildings were constructed during the first half of the 18th century. This complex of building includes Thuji Dra, a meditation centre hanging on the side of cliffs at 3950 m.
After about 20 minutes of climb you come out in clearing which is usually used as camps for herders and trekkers. The staff would be waiting for you here with your packed lunch. You might really want to pack in lunch because there would be five passes to cross before you reach your campsite Simkotra. To reach the Phume La (4080m) you have sharp climb on a maze of eroded trails at first and then level walk southwest to the pass. From here you could view the Gangkar Punsum and other Himalayan peaks from here and also the Thimphu valley sprawled below.
After this you climb bit higher to crest at 4120m and then go across to a hill with some prayer flags and a stonewall that marks the sky burial site. Then you drop down to Labana where there is almost dry lake at 4110m. Labana means ‘between the passes’ so you have to climb over another crest at 4210m and traverse along a broad valley, where you could view Dochula and Jumolhari. The path then ascends gradually to group of Cairns atop Labana La (‘Pass between passes’). After long walk over rocky path and several descent past several false summit, you will be at your campsite near stone ruins overlooking Simkotra Tsho.
Day 2: Tsokam (4110m) – Jangchula (3880m) 7-8 hrs
Today, we climb at first climb about 50m to a ridge at 4150m and then descend to Janye Tsho at 3950m. Continue walking along the shore to reach yak herder’s camp and then climb another 100m to crest where you have view of the lake you passed. Then you make several ups and downs to another ridge and then make climb to a single stone shelter. From there you traverse along the side of the ridge to descend to lake Jimilang Tsho.
There is pleasant camping site at one end of the lake, with plenty of trout. The name Jimilang Tsho means ‘Sand Ox Lake’ and was called after a bull that emerged from the lake to join the cattle of family that uses the area as summer grazing ground. After leaving the lake, you traverse to the crest and then make a short decent through boulders and rhododendrons at first and then through forest. Then make climb for about an hour to the top of a ridge at 4175, from where you have view of Jumolhari and Paro valley. After this you descend to valley and make climb up to a meadow, where yak herder’s camp and is known sometimes as Labana. After the open it is only short gradual climb to the small pass at 4080m with again the view of Jumolhari and Paro valley below.
Leaving the pass you descend further to an open and plain area called Jangchulakha where you could have your lunch if you have crossed the pass in good time. This plain area is where Yak Herder’s camps are set and where they have pasture for their cattle.
Day 3: Jangchula (3880m) – Jele Dzong to Paro (3436m) 8 – 9 hrs
After breakfast, we negotiate steep descend further down to the valley from where you climb back to Jilli Dzong. Just 10 minutes before reaching the dzong you have come onto the ridge at 3700m from where you have superb view of the valley surrounding. After making some ups and downs, you come out camping place just below the Jilli Dzong. You can either visit this Dzong next day or this day, if light permits. This fort overlooking the Paro valley below and the peaks lining the Tibetan borders is impressive. It was built by Drukpa Kunley’s (Divine Madman) cousin Ngawang Chogyel during the 16th Century, earlier than the most of the dzongs you would have visited around the country. The principal figure in the main temple is of historical Buddha.
After Jili Dzong, you will drop more than 1000m after climbing just for about 80m to a small pass at 3515m and then descend down through forest of bamboo, blue pine and fir. After descending for about 200m you will come across gigantic over 600 years Hemlock tree which dominates the surrounding vegetation. Near here the path joins from the one from Damji after which you would come across Mani wall in flat open field at around 2995m. The route after an hour walk let you have the view of your destination – the Paro valley below. After half an hour’s descend you come to the start of feeder road used during the apple season in place called Damchena where the representative of Reality Escape “Bhutan” will receive you to mark your end of the trek.
The Jumolhari Base Camp / Yaksa Trek
DAY ONE: SHANA (9,482′)
Distance: 11.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,624′
Drive the winding road north-west up the Pa Chu to Drukgyel, the ruined dzong which once defended this valley from Tibetan invasion. This fortress, now a burned shell, was once strategic in Bhutan’s defence against Tibetan invasion. Mt. Chomolhari, the sacred summit, reaches skyward beyond the Dzong. The road ends and the trek begins, following the river gently uphill through a narrowing agricultural valley. Many farms line the valley. 4-5 hours of walking this first day.
DAY TWO: SOI THANGTHANKHA (11,745′)
Distance: 14.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,559′
Elevation Loss: 0
Today is more challenging as the trail continues uphill through the river valley. It narrows and closes in and the trail winds up and down along the drainage. Camp is in a meadow with stone shelter the government has built for trekkers. There are views of Chomolhari as you reach camp which make an excellent photo opportunity. Overnight in camp. 7-8 hours of walking today
DAY THREE: JANGOTHANG (13,100′)
Distance: 9.9 miles/Elevation Gain: 1,674′
Elevation Loss: 0
On up the Pa Chu. Pass a small army post where the valley begins to widen again. Now views of high ridges and then snow-capped peaks are all around. Camp beneath a ruined fortress at the base of Chomolhari. 4-5 hours of walking today.
Today, we tackle the Bang Tue La (Pass) which is the highest point on our trek at 15,600′. An early start is recommended to allow enough time to reach camp and to get over the pass in the morning when the weather is the most stable. The trail crosses the river and begins to climb up to the lakes. A steep climb for about 45 minutes with spectacular views of Jitchu Drake and Chomolhari which grow more and more impressive as you gain altitude. Once you reach the top of the plateau, the trail will level out and after crossing a small hill, the first lake will come into view. This is a spectacular walk with the three major peaks rising above the valley, a broad stream on your right and snow covered peaks in the distance. These two lakes were stocked with brown trout in the 1960′s by H.R.H. Prince Namgyal Wangchuk.
After Tsophu, the trail leaves the valley floor and begins the climb to the pass with a steep traverse of a scree slope. As we near the top of this first incline, we cross a small glacial stream. The trail winds up and into an upper valley, with snow capped peaks in the distance. We skirt several streams and a small lake as we make our way towards the final climb to the pass. Be on the lookout for Blue Sheep on the steep hillsides above the valley. In the fall, the sheep gather together in herds numbering up to 500 individuals. In addition to the Blue Sheep, there are several Snow Leopard which live in this region.
As we climb, we will pace ourselves to allow our bodies to adjust to the elevation. At a slow pace, we should be at the pass by approximately 11:00 a.m. From the pass, the trail drops quickly to a huge grass-covered plateau dotted with yak herder tent stone circles. To the right is a massive cliff with waterfalls and a vast scree field below. The valley of Soi Yaksa is an incredibly scenic box canyon which ends abruptly at the foot of the steep cliff. Above the canyon floor, the landscape is comprised of cliffs, waterfalls and higher still, snow covered peaks. Above the cliff to our right, the mountain rises to a dramatic point, resembling the throne of a local deity. As we ramble through the steep grazing fields, we can see the edge of the plateau which ends with a final descent to the valley floor and our camp site beside a rushing stream.